A heartbreaking crash claimed the life of a 21-year-old, North Texas woman. Sarah Elizabeth Hopkins was travelling on U.S. 287 when the car she was in struck a cow. The cow was loose on U.S. 287 when their sport utility vehicle hit it. Hopkins was a passenger in the SUV. She got out of the vehicle and was then struck by a second vehicle that also hit the cow. Hopkins died at a hospital in Quanah.
The crash happened early Wednesday morning, March 13, 2013. The vehicle Hopkins was in struck the cow just before dawn. They were on U.S. 287, east of the Childress County and Hardeman County line, near Goodlett. After the initial crash, Hopkins got out of the SUV and was standing along the roadway. A second vehicle then hit the cow, and the driver lost control striking Hopkins. Department of Public Safety trooper Daniel Hawthorne reported that roadway conditions were dry.
The dangers of livestock in the roadway are indisputable, especially in the early morning, pre-dawn hours. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that Texas leads the nation in most deaths involving automobile collisions with animals. From 2004 to 2008, Texas was reported to have 88 deaths involving collisions with animals. Wisconsin followed behind with 62 deaths.
Animal collisions can be complicated cases in the state of Texas. Liability often depends upon a variety of different factors. Most importantly, the county in which the loose animal was struck in may determine who, if anybody can be held liable. Texas is considered an “open range” state. This means that in many areas, livestock such as horses, mules, donkeys, sheep, goats and cattle can run free. It wasn’t until around 1910 that counties began adopting “stock laws.” These stock laws were expressly written in certain counties and city-limit areas to prohibit livestock from running at large.
Farm animals at large can pose a serious threat to the general public. These cases can quickly become complicated due to the “open range” status of the state and potential stock laws in various counties. A wrongful death attorney can help families who have lost loved ones due to livestock running at large. It is important to have a skilled legal team that understands the complexities of stock laws in Texas. The team at the Altman Legal Group sends their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Elizabeth Hopkins.